The Virginia Zoo announced the birth of triplet Red Panda cubs to Masu, a three-year-old female, and four-year-old dad Timur. The three cubs, two males and one female, were born off-exhibit at the Zoo’s Animal Wellness Campus on June 18, 2019. Red Panda cubs weigh approximately five ounces at birth, and by two months of age, the cubs each weighed just over one pound. The zoo announced the births in late August.
“Having Red Panda triplets is a unique situation,” said Dr. Colleen Clabbers, the Zoo’s Veterinarian. “It’s a lot of work for mom to care for three newborns, but Masu is doing a great job caring for the triplets and all three have been thriving.”
Masu, who had her first litter of cubs last year, gave birth in an indoor, climate-controlled den where she has been nursing and bonding with her cubs in this quiet environment. The den is not viewable by zoo guests and is monitored by Zoo Keepers and Animal Care Staff. Red Panda cubs typically remain in the nest with mom for about three months, even in the wild.
Masu and the cubs will move back to the Red Panda exhibit later this fall when Keepers feel the little ones can confidently navigate the trees and other exhibit features.
“Our Animal Care team had a great strategy last year in moving Masu to the Animal Wellness Campus while she was still pregnant, providing privacy for her first birth experience. She took great care of her cubs last year, which is why we opted to do the same thing again this time around,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo.
The zoo auctioned naming rights for the cubs, but they have not yet announced the names.
Red Pandas are tree-dwelling animals found in forested mountain habitat in Myanmar, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Tibet and China. While they share the same name as Giant Pandas, the two species are not closely related. Red Pandas are the only living member of their taxonomic family. Slightly larger than a domestic Cat and with markings similar to a Raccoon, Red Pandas have soft, dense reddish-brown and white fur. They feed mainly on bamboo, but also eat plant shoots, leaves, fruit and insects. Red Pandas are shy and solitary except when mating or raising offspring.
Red Pandas are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding due to isolated populations contribute to the decline. There are fewer than 10,000 mature individuals estimated to remain in the wild.